When you’ve put so much work into building your company's eCommerce website and building out a great eCommerce marketing plan, it can be extremely frustrating not to see your site get the exposure it deserves. Many marketers have found themselves stumped when it comes to search engine optimization, or SEO.
Luckily, optimizing your digital presence doesn’t have to require professional coding skills or ultra-expensive site managing software. With some assistance from online tools and a bit of strategic elbow grease, your site will be topping the SERPs in no time.
- Why is SEO Important for ECommerce?
- Build Your Site's Domain Authority
- How to Optimize Your ECommerce Website for SEO
- Test Your Website Performance
Why is SEO Important for eCommerce?
Search engine optimization is a marketing practice focused on growing your website’s visibility in organic (non-paid) search engine results, driving traffic, and ultimately increasing brand awareness. Search engines are the primary channels along which potential customers can find the products and content they need. Some examples of why SEO is valuable to your site include:
- Nearly 75% of web users don't click past the first page of search engine results.
- An absence of SEO is essentially an absence in visibility.
- 93% of online activity is search-based.
- It's very difficult to compete with those in your industry who work hard at their SEO if you don't.
- Improvements to your organic traffic are difficult to come by without SEO.
61% of marketers today say that improving SEO and growing their organic presence is their top inbound marketing priority. In short, the ability of search engines to find your site or correctly index the information it contains can make or break a company’s success!
Build your site's domain authority
ECommerce optimization is, of course, not a one-size-fits-all strategy, but there are some common recommended steps to take when creating a game plan for building your domain authority.
Create quality content
The biggest thing to remember when creating content for your site is that Google is not your audience—the searcher is! Creating content full of on-page SEO tactics, in the hopes that Google will crawl your page and rank it well, does not necessarily mean that you're fulfilling search intent. It is more advantageous for you to answer questions clearly and concisely than by keyword stuffing.
Some examples of SEO malpractices are:
- Packing unnecessary amounts of keywords into the title
- Inorganically placing keywords in the blog or page copy (keyword stuffing)
- Creating content that's already been created and creating duplicate content
- Adding anchor text too frequently or unnecessarily in the copy
Remember, Google is getting smarter every day. Even if you're performing these black hat SEO practices and it's paying off in the short-term, Google will eventually penalize your content. In the interest of your content's longevity, invest your time in unique, relevant content.
Do keyword research on products
The most common kind of research that may come to mind for SEO is keyword research. Choosing keywords for your products may sound straightforward, but in reality there is a wide list of synonyms and word combinations out there for industries and products, both generic and niche.
So, how do you determine which keywords are the most potent and effective for you? By keeping several key criteria in mind:
- Relevance: It’s important to avoid both being overly vague or too specific with your keywords. An overly broad approach (for example, a blender manufacturer aiming for terms like “healthy diet” and “blender nutrition drinks”) will likely result in a high bounce rate, because many site visitors will be misled about the nature of the site.
- Popularity- Unsurprisingly, high search volume keywords indicate popularity with consumers. Thankfully, there’s no need to go in blind for this, as there are a variety of keyword research tools online, both paid and free.
- Competition- popularity is a double-edged sword, as the “hottest” keywords can also have higher competition among eCommerce sites, making a top ranking more difficult. Tools like Ahrefs, designed for competitor keyword research, can provide you insight on the difficulty level of attaining rank for specific keywords. Through careful analysis, you will eventually locate the keyword gold mine—words with high search volume, and low competition.
Remember that keywords should reflect your intent, which in this case is a company looking to sell its products. Long tail keywords—more specific groups of keywords searched as phrases—can be a valuable component of your keyword strategy, as they have a higher conversion value despite receiving less search traffic.
on-page SEO and link building
Now that you've conducted your keyword research, it's time to start working on the infrastructure of your website. Well-planned site architecture can both maximize the visibility of your existing content, and make it easier to expand in the future as new products and information are added.
The focus of your architecture should be on the user experience, with a simple and well-organized layout. Using the keyword research you’ve conducted, you can base your architecture on your best-fitting keywords—and even map your keywords to specific pages. As a general rule of thumb, it should take as few clicks as possible to go from your home page to your product page.
Internal linking goes hand-in-hand with internal structuring. Internal links are a means of interconnecting pages within your site with the home page and each other. The stronger your “web” of links, the better chance of SEO success! Internal linking also allows you to establish your own anchor text, which can help with ranking for your preferred keywords. Note that these links should be used where it is natural, and with some diversity in anchor text.
External linking (or back-linking) should be awarded the same investment of your time. Link to sites with high domain authority, pages with content related to yours, and be sure it's a site that's accessible to search engines. This is so Google can crawl through your page and assess the quality of your content based on your references.
When your site is complete, it’s recommended that you create a comprehensive sitemap, both for personal reference and for submission to Google so it can index the site page by page.
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Improve your product's ranking
Product pages are the cornerstones of an eCommerce site, so let’s consider how they can be optimized to appeal to visitors. According to Shopify, modifiers like “Sitewide Sale”, “X% Off”, and “Free Shipping” can help with visibility as Google is suspected to use click-through rate (CTR) as a factor for ranking pages.
Now that you have put considerable thought into internal structure, it is time to put more of that keyword research to work. Keywords can feature in a number of strategic locations, including:
- The page title
- Meta title and description
- Product descriptions (optimal for long-tail keywords)
- Image file names and alt-tags
Services like Shopify can prove beneficial at this step because certain elements of the on-page optimization are accounted for automatically, such as themes that generate title tags and meta descriptions.
Additionally, features called “rich snippets” have great conversion potential; these are structured data markups that can be added to sites’ existing HTML, which allow search engines to better understand what information is contained on each web page as well as help their users find the information they are looking for. With regards to products, properties such as name, image, brand, description, price, identifiers, and even reviews can be displayed through the use of snippets.
How to optimize your ecommerce website for seo
You could have the most beautiful eCommerce site on the market, but if Google can't crawl it and shoppers never discover it, you might as well have never put all that time into it. Below, we've detailed our best tips on SEO practices to ensure your eCommerce site is optimized for Google and for users.
optimize your page speed
One crucial, yet often overlooked component of optimization is page load time, which not only affects bounce rate but is criteria for site ranking. Nearly 53% of mobile users leave a site that takes longer than three seconds to load. Thankfully, a variety of tools like Google’s PageSpeed Insights can be used to quickly check site performance.
From there, you can attack the problem from multiple angles, both through the use of performance— optimizing software and by hand. Examples of techniques to speed up your site include:
- Reduce redirects (another reason to streamline site layout)
- Maximizing browser caching
- Enabling file and image compression
- Improving server response time
- Using a content distribution network (CDN)
optimize your urls
URL slugs are the part of the URL that contextualizes the domain. These can end up looking exhaustive, but the good news is they're easy to optimize for your site. Even better, you can use the URL slugs for words you want to rank for, and also provide the searcher with an idea of the page content.
Just in case you'd like some options, here's a comprehensive list of sites for URL consolidation:
write unique product and category descriptions
Online shoppers are going to move onto your competitors if they can't quite understand what you're selling, which is why product and category descriptions are an important part of your site for capturing customers.
To guide your product and category descriptions, keep in mind who each product is for. It might take a little extra research, but loosely developing a buyer persona for each product on your site could substantially increase your ROI. This is because you'll write your descriptions from the perspective of your buyers, which will eliminate any language barrier between their area of expertise (the product) and yours (your eCommerce business). This blog from Bigcommerce provides useful examples of a well-optimized product and category descriptions:
Making your site mobile-friendly may seem like an afterthought, but in reality mobile optimization deserves your full attention when it comes to SEO. Did you know that 79% of smartphone users have made a purchase online using their device in the last 6 months, and 80% of shoppers used a phone while in store to look up product reviews, compare prices or find alternative store locations? With generations young and old getting connected, more of your customer segments will likely be shopping with a mobile device.
Many companies create duplicate content when designing mobile versions of their websites, negatively impacting their SEO problems.This is why responsive website design, which allows coding of a site to work smoothly on any device, is a far better alternative. Visually, your design should be all the more transparent, easy to scroll through, and uncluttered for small mobile screens.
Test your website's performance
Finally, one of the best ways to go forward with SEO can be to look backwards. For instance, simply updating and republishing old blog posts with new content and images can increase organic traffic by more than 100%. In many cases, an unoptimized eCommerce site does not require tearing everything down and starting from scratch. Instead, much of your existing material can often easily be polished up and incorporated into a new SEO strategy.
You can also leverage software by using online tools to pinpoint any less obvious website errors—duplicate pages, script errors, missing header tags, etc. Such errors are easily fixable, but tiresome to track by hand and easy to miss when your site contains a large number of pages and links.
Don’t forget to implement analytics software on your site to monitor and measure organic search traffic and on-site engagement, ensuring your optimization efforts aren’t going to waste. Google Analytics provides a good, broad look at web traffic trends, and allows you to dig into organic search performance. Optimizing for customers’ internal search of your products is almost as important as optimizing for engine search; make note of common keyword synonyms or misspellings that may be taking away from the quality of their search results.
Last but certainly not least, it can be helpful to act as an independent researcher, and run an SEO A/B test by changing particular elements of the site and observing visitor response over a period of time. Something as simple as moving the placement of an “Add to Cart” button can significantly impact performance.
While driving organic traffic to your site with these SEO strategies will help you generate new customers, your marketing efforts shouldn't stop there. Learn how to increase sales and decrease customer acquisition costs with our ECommerce Marketing: Intro to Lead Generation guide today!